Farlington Marshes 25 February 2024

The unpromising forecast limited attendance to eight members. Their rewards were the absence of the expected rain and despite a buffeting wind an excellent morning’s birding. In a variation of the usual routine the anti-clockwise route was taken. On the way to the hut Greenfinches, a Cetti’s Warbler and a Wren could be heard in the bushes. In the pond behind the hut were Teal, Gadwall and some handsome Pintails. Low in the reeds a male Kingfisher had found a perch and cooperatively stayed stationary to allow superb views. In contrast two Snipe could barely be glimpsed nearby. Suddenly there was a flurry of raptors, a hovering Kestrel, three Buzzards and over the reedbeds a patrolling Marsh Harrier. Across the path was a veritable covey of Coots and the first of the hundreds of Brent Geese on the marsh. A wader flew in and was identified a Greenshank while a female Reed Bunting was spotted on a tree. At the sea wall the tide was approaching full and initially, apart from geese, the only birds in view were a Redshank, a Great Crested Grebe and Cormorants. Then a small flock of Grey Plovers appeared over the water. On the marsh a white goose signalled the presence of its constant companion, the regular Barnacle Goose while large numbers of Wigeon and Shelducks could be seen. Near the channels there was a sudden eruption of birds, mainly Brent Geese and Lapwings, that had to signify a Peregrine; and sure enough one was quickly found perched on the ground. The Deeps had clearly had a makeover with beautifully profiled shingle banks and new tern breeding platforms. Around were numerous ducks including Shovelers and Mallards to add to the list, and at last good numbers of waders. They included numerous Dunlins and Oystercatchers with a sprinkling of Grey Plovers and Curlews. Among them were also a few Ringed Plovers and a single, limping Bar-tailed Godwit. Along the sea wall a Meadow Pipit crept ahead and a Rock Pipit was found nearby. The main lake proved to be so flooded that all the reeds were standing in water; consequently the usual array of waders was absent, the exceptions being roosting Redshanks and about forty Avocets. Most striking though were the numerous Pintails at the water edge. Singles of Little Grebe, Common Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull plus a few Tufted Ducks boosted the sightings. The final treat was three Red-breasted Mergansers on the high water of the harbour. A most unpromising day delivered some excellent birds and an impressive species list of 54.

Farlington Marshes 10 September 2023

Just five members attended the walk at Farlington Marches, a reflection on the bad weather forecast, that proved accurate in cutting progress short after an hour, not far beyond the lake. Redshanks were the most numerous waders with a few Black-tailed Godwits, Oystercatchers, Lapwings, a dozen elegant Greenshanks and, in the channel, Curlews and twenty Grey Plovers, some still in summer plumage. An Avocet and two Ruffs were also noted. Ducks seen were Teal, Gadwall, Pintail and Mallard. Among the Canada Geese was the resident Barnacle Goose and its white domestic friend. Little Egrets and Grey Herons were also present. In the bushes were two Chiffchaffs, a Robin, Stonechats and Linnets while a Cettis’ Warbler was heard. The only raptor seen was a Kestrel hunting from the fence. Given the time available a total 33 species was a creditable result.

Farlington Marshes 22 February 2023

Despite recently low temperatures fourteen members were brave enough to attend the walk and were rewarded with a glorious day and excellent birding. Waders abounded around the site including Avocets, Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Curlew, Snipe, Dunlins, a probable Knot, Golden Plovers, Ringed Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits (one in its summer plumage) and Redshanks. Waterfowl too were plentiful – Shelducks, Pintails,Mallards, Shovelers, Teal and Red-breasted Mergansers – while geese included Canada, Brent, five White-fronted and a single Barnacle. Both Little and Great-crested Grebes were spotted. Songbirds too were shining in the sun, among them Wrens, Reed Buntings, Cetti’s Warbler, Robins, Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Redwings and Meadow Pipits. Raptors were a highlight of the day with sightings of a Sparrowhawk, a Buzzard, two Kestrels and three Marsh Harriers. At the end of the walk a few members set off on a quest and were delighted to have views of two Short-eared Owls both on the ground and in flight. Other sightings included Grey Herons, Little Egrets and a Raven. Yet again Farlington managed to deliver splendid birding with 47 species identified.

Farlington Marshes 8 October 2022

Superb weather attracted seventeen members who enjoyed unbroken sun and the lightest of breezes throughout the visit. Because of the rescheduling of the walk the tide was not ideal as water had already covered the harbour but the effect was helpfully to concentrate the birds. On the lake were spectacular numbers of redshank, dunlin and black-tailed godwits as well as greenshanks in double figures. On the fringes were two scarcities, a curlew sandpiper and a little stint that could be identified by its tiny size compared with the dunlin roosting next to it. Fortunately the sightings took place before first a sparrowhawk and then a peregrine caused a major rearrangement of the waders. Meanwhile bearded tits were pinging around the reeds and snipe were contending for attention with a water rail on the muddy fringes; the latter unusually took to the air at one point. Then a kingfisher put on a command performance, flying close, hovering, diving for fish and perching on several posts within range for photographers. On the circuit of the seawall a single island remained above the water level; it was packed with birds. A count of the curlews reached 130 and oystercatchers were similarly numerous. A couple of grey plovers and four golden plovers were also identified while increasing numbers of Brent geese swan on the harbour or flew in small skeins. A big surprise on the circuit came when a knot, apparently disorientated, suddenly landed on the path in the midst of the group. Lunch at the Deeps allowed time for leisurely scanning. This paid off with views of stonechats and a wheatear and the amazing sight of an osprey flying right overhead. Brief glimpses of a Dartford warbler in brambles were another surprise before a search of the ditch near the bunker yielded two green sandpipers, something of a disappointment for those who were hoping for a view of the vagrant spotted sandpiper reported at that location the previous day. The grazing meadows revealed four cattle egrets among the herd. The concluding walk across the marsh was productive with a little grebe, a few common gulls and excellent views of more greenshanks shining in the sunlight. Towards the end two yellow wagtails popped out from the feet of some cattle as a bonus sighting. A wonderful walk yielded a large species list of 70 birds.

Farlington Marshes 23 January 2022

On a gloomy morning around thirty members assembled in the car park and because of the number split into two groups that circled the reserve in opposite directions. As the tide was low waders were spread thinly across the harbour mud. Small numbers of curlews, redshank, ringed and grey plover were noted while distantly in the far channel a pair of red-breasted mergansers and the first of many pintails and shelduck could be identified. An early highlight was provided by a peregrine that settled on the mud allowing good views. The main lake held numerous Brent geese, lapwings, black-tailed godwits and a dozen avocets while a single roosting snipe was almost invisible in the reeds. Two bearded tits were also seen skulking at the bottom of the reeds but offered only intermittent views. The early part of the circuit produced a spectacular moment as a sparrowhawk sped across the marsh clutching an unfortunate starling. A couple of stonechats posed on the vegetation but it was not until the approach to the Deeps that more significant numbers of passerines were found including a few greenfinches and goldfinches accompanied by a small flock of linnets. On the harbour the rising tide was bringing waders closer to the shore particularly hundreds of dunlins strung out along the shoreline where a few turnstones could also be seen. In the channel several more red-breasted mergansers appeared in the company of great crested grebes, both species repeatedly diving to enjoy the bounty the tide was bringing within reach. The Deeps were rather quiet holding a few shovelers while the fields behind were being grazed by numerous wigeon, Canada geese and many more Brent geese. Interspersed among them were more curlews and black-tailed godwits. A long-staying barnacle goose was seen in the meadow close to a farmyard goose with which it reportedly has a committed relationship! The area by the information hut held few birds but provided new sightings with three little grebes, a wren, a kingfisher and a Cetti’s warbler while on the walk back across the marsh two common gulls were seen. The return visit to the main lake was rewarded by much larger numbers of species embarking on their high tide roost included three greenshanks and a more viewable snipe as well as many more redshanks and avocets. A successful day produced a species list of 53.

Farlington Marshes 9 October 2021

Nine members met under a clear blue sky to walk around Farlington Marsh on land reclaimed in the 1700s. Though the tide was low we headed for the lake to try for bearded reedlings at their most active. The strategy paid off as we enjoyed good views of five swaying at the top of the tall reeds, the soft browns and blues highlighted in the sunshine. Formerly called bearded tits the reedling is actually a sister to the larks.  A water rail located at the back of the lake and threading its way stealthily through the reeds was another great sighting. Loud bursts of song came from a nearby Cetti’s warbler hidden in the rushes.

We then took the path diagonally through the western corner of the reserve and by one of the water-filled bomb craters (the area was used to burn fires during World War II to decoy bombers away from nearby Portsmouth) we found an active collection of blackcaps, Cetti’s warblers and chiffchaffs.  A sparrowhawk glided over our heads. Approaching the Deeps we saw many little egrets, at which point an eagle-eyed member saw the head of a glossy ibis and focused us on the area. After a minute’s anticipation we saw a purple head, then a long curved beak and a few minutes later the whole bird as it climbed out of a ditch on to he bank. The dark purple colour stood out in the bright sun. A peregrine flew over high and straight, the bulky body, tapered wings and continuous flight contrasting with the earlier sparrowhawk.

Having finished the circumnavigation of the reserve, we returned to the main lake before high tide. As well as the usual waders and ducks we were aware that a curlew sandpiper had been reported. Trying to locate it among the 20+ dunlins that were running round the legs of black-tailed godwits and a few ringed plovers proved very difficult. However we eventually succeeded in finding the target bird despite the marginal differences in size, bill length and shape from the dunlins but fortunately the good light enabled us to note the peachy wash of a juvenile as well as its slightly longer legs and different running style.

The walk proved both enjoyable and productive with 47 species identified, with some scarce birds seen in excellent viewing conditions.

Farlington Marshes 16 May 2021

Despite a poor forecast of heavy showers and strong winds some enthusiastic newcomers to the group prevailed upon the pessimistic veterans to go ahead with the walk; there was no doubt at the end which group were right! Although we endured a couple of short drenchings in the open the periods of dry permitted some excellent birding. On the walk to the sea wall we noted several passerine species including greenfinches, meadow pipits, whitethroats and linnets as well as the unmistakeable shouting of the first of many Cetti’s warblers. The low tide  mud of the harbour was largely clear of birds apart from numerous gulls while the lake held a few ducks including gadwalls and shelducks. On the edges a couple of redshanks prowled while two common terns appeared briefly. Over the marsh numerous swifts and swallows swirled and remained our companions for the entire walk. Scanning of the marshes showed numerous nesting lapwings vigorously protecting their nests and at least five families of Canada geese with goslings. Among them at a considerable distance was a Russian single white-fronted goose, a late-lingering juvenile that had been hanging around for several days. As we reached the south of the reserve a peregrine falcon passed over us and waders began to appear, oystercatchers at first and then the odd curlew. Then the rising tide brought dozens of mobile dunlins and a great crested grebe into view while skylarks sang behind us. On the east side the filling of the channel brought a greater variety of waders closer to us although in small numbers including ringed plovers, a whimbrel, turnstones and two bar-tailed godwits while on the marsh we saw a single barnacle goose. Then we spotted a flock of grey plovers two of which were in stunning breeding plumage. The pools by the information hut produced several additional sightings including four Mediterranean gulls, little egrets, a little grebe and an avocet, the first of six that we saw. A bearded tit pinged in the reeds close to us but unsurprisingly failed to show. The consensus was that the walk with its species list of 56 had been thoroughly worthwhile.